The South Wales Coalfield is saucer shaped and stretches from the Eastern Valley of Monmouthshire in east Wales, to Pembrokeshire in west Wales.
The coalfield outcrops on the north east rim and the Eastern Valley is the most north-easterly part of this rim. Here, since Roman times, people had been aware that coal was very close to the surface, but, for the next 15 centuries or so, this was of no real importance due to the abundance of timber for fuel and the relatively little use for iron products.
The need for iron increased as industry began to grow and warfare used bigger and better means of killing: cannons and cannon balls, being an example. The iron ore seams were laid down with the coal seams during the Carboniferous Age and outcrop with the coal seams. During the second part of the 18th. Century and the first part of the 19th. Century the demand for tools and weapons of iron grew and iron works sprang up around the north east rim of the coalfield.
Our Iron Works
In the Abersychan and Garndiffaith area, within two miles from Varteg to Pentwyn, there were four iron works set up: Varteg, Golynos, Abersychan (British), and Pentwyn.
There was a huge influx of labour to feed the ironworks and their associated industries of coal, quarrying, and transport.
Richer ores from other places, the advent of steel, and the changing face of industry generally spelled the end of our four ironworks before the mid 18th Century, and coal became King.
The constituents of coal in the South Wales Field varies with the bituminous seams in the East and the Anthracite in the West, broadly speaking. A large percentage of the coal is good for making coke and also for steam making furnaces. There was a huge market for Welsh coal to supply the fleets of the world in the changeover from sail to iron clad, steam powered ships, and, for the next 100 years or so, the coal industry became the main employer in this area.
Most of our local history is that of iron and coal and the people who mined and worked them.
An example of one of the collieries in our is that of Deakin's Slope. Sources for the information below is from local memories, back newspaper files and most from Ray Lawrence's The South Wales CoalField directory - to be found at Cardiff Reference Library. Ray's work provides more information on local collieries than of any source I have come across.
Deakins Slope, Nr Garndiffaith, Afon Lwyd Valley
The illustrations are of Deakin's Slope circa 1920 - courtesy of David Boddington - and how it looks now.
Opened in 1901 by the Varteg Deep Black Vein Collieries Limited, who were members of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association, and at the start of its life was called Varteg Deep or Lower Varteg. It employed 403 men in 1913, and was still owned by the Varteg Company in 1917, but by 1921 this had become John Vipond ND Co. which was based at the Varteg Hill Colliery, the chairman of this company being T.H.Deakin. John Vipond was born in Cheshire in and came to south Wales to cash in on the coal boom; he sunk the Varteg Pits in 1860, but died in 1860, although his named lived on with the company title until Nationalisation in 1947. By 1935 Deakins slope had been merged with the No. 10 slope, and together employed 64 men on the surface and 451 men underground producing gas, manufacturing, steam and house coals. On Nationalisation in 1947 this colliery was placed in the National Coal Board’s South Western Division’s No. 6 (Monmouthshire) Area and at the time employed 140 men on the surface and 409 men underground working the Garw, Four-Feet, Yard, Seven feet, and two nine feet seams. Deakins slope was closed in January 1957.
- 1913: Manpower - 404
- 1935: Manpower - 515
- 1947: Manpower - 549
- 1954: Output - 79,000 tons
- 1955: Manpower - 317, Output - 88,579 tons
Our Abersychan and Garndiffaith History Group is based on the Abersychan electoral ward and includes Varteg and Talywain. These four places form a continuous urban area located mainly on the top road from Abersychan to Varteg, and contained the collieries which were located mainly in the Nant Ffrwd and Cwm Sychan valleys - both being tributaries of the Afon Llwd.
Deakin’s Slope is located in the Nant Ffrwd valley close to Garndiffaith, but often attributed with Talywain or Varteg - mostly Varteg. This valley was extensively mined over 150 years and many mines, bell pits, drifts never recorded. The later mines included in this Nant Ffrwd area were Varteg Hill Pits, Deakins Slope, also known as Lower Varteg, Top Pit, Red Ash Colliery, and No 10 Slope.
The transport of iron and coal down the valley to the coastal ports, initially to Newport, was by animal pack train, then tram roads to the canal head, then by canal boat. This was followed by the railways.
Passenger transport was by foot, horse, horse drawn vehicles, train, then by bus and train. The photo is of the first motorised charabanc to Cwmffrwdoer. Photo donated by Ray Callow.
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015